Steve ‘Stumper' Rixon's tough, moustachioed exterior is a camouflage for the easy going charm he exudes.
In this interview with The Hindu, the Chennai Super Kings fielding coach speaks about the changing face of fielding, the disappointment at being overlooked for Australia's top coaching job, and M.S. Dhoni's unique warm-up routine.
Q: How much has the approach towards fielding coaching changed?
A: I think it's a lot different now. The mechanics of it hasn't changed, but the emphasis is now on how important fielding is to the result. In T20, things like saving a four or effecting a run-out can change the momentum. You can see different people, from baseballers to ex-cricketers, involved in the game. We (CSK) have probably been the best fielding side in the last two years. That's made a major difference to our position in the table.
The way I do things is, identify our ‘A' grade fielders and work out where the ‘hot spots' (critical positions) are. Then I work specifically towards drills that are applicable to them and work on the lesser fieldsmen. Every fielder has a role and we got to make sure we bring the appropriate people into play.
How different is the fielding culture in the sub-continent compared to Australia or New Zealand?
The basic difference is priority. In Australia, fielding is non-negotiable.
There are reasons to why it's different in the sub-continent; there is a lot more cricket that's played.
However, if you want to be the best, you will have to work towards it and fielding is very much a part of it.
Who are the most improved fielders in CSK?
You got some natural fielders like (Murali) Vijay and (Suresh) Raina. From the local boys, I have seen major improvements in Anirudha (Srikkanth) and S. Badrinath. And that's not by accident; these guys have worked pretty hard.
Was it disappointing to be overlooked for the Australian coaching job?
Yeah, it was. It was down to Mickey Arthur and myself. When Mickey got it, that was fine. I moved on. I remember many years ago, John Buchanan got the job in front of me. Mickey came up asking me to get involved [as a fielding coach].
So I see a long-term involvement with Australian cricket.
Mickey knows I have been a head coach and he knows he's got me to lean on. But my priority is CSK. That stays regardless of whether I am with the Australian team or not.
You go back a long way with Stephen Fleming…
I have known him from day one in his leadership role (as captain of New Zealand). Steve's a very smart operator and has done extremely well. He knows the sort of people he needs around him and trusts them to work well.
The CSK experience…
I have received offers from other franchises to join them as head coach but I am still here. So, that answers your question (smiles).
CSK has a great off-field and on-field team besides a very good sponsor who very much lets us do what we are paid to do. There is also the enjoyment factor. The trophies we have won in the last two seasons are testimony to that.
As a former wicket-keeper yourself, have you shared pointers with M.S. Dhoni?
No, that's one thing I haven't. I wouldn't have hit 10 balls to him in these two years. MS warms up by having a bowl (laughs). He's a little unique and whatever keeps him relaxed, I am very happy with it.
I will be happy to talk to him at any stage he needs me.